Intimidation tactics?

  • This isn’t Colombia or Sicily

Throughout history the judges of the land have faced some sort of intimidation during their careers. Where at one place a mobster would threaten the life of a judge, at another, someone would threaten the kidnapping of his family. The reason is quite simple. With a stroke of his pen, the respective judge makes use of the power vested in him, under law, and seals the fate of any given person who has been brought before him. This power makes the lawbreakers nervous. They simply cannot put up with another man making decisions pertaining to their lives.

In most countries a judge has vast discretionary powers which may be exercised at will in accordance with law. For instance, the power to grant bail in Pakistan is a discretionary power. Although certain perimeters have been defined by the superior judiciary for their sub-ordinates, yet it remains to the will of the presiding judge whether to accept the bail plea or dismiss it. Such powers amongst others render a judge quite powerful with the full might of law behind his back. With unprecedented levels of power vested in the judge, a criminal is bound to become anxious. One stroke of pen and an accused may have to spend the rest of his/her life confined to the walls of prison.

If a person is innocent then he usually has nothing to worry about, but if a person is well aware of his misdeeds then he might have all the reasons in the world to fret. Historically, mafia bosses, drug peddlers and all other related crime mobsters have been known to use intimidation as a tool against state officials. If an investigating officer wouldn’t cooperate, the mafia boss would send them a message usually through their beloved hitmen. The message itself would either terrify the officer or else render him incapable of proceeding further.

Most judges have been known to be on the payroll of these mafia bosses, some by choice and some left with no choice. The infamous drug trafficker Pablo Escobar was known to offer money or the bullet to all those he wished to intimidate. Didn’t leave much room for a reasoned decision. You may not desire money from a drug lord but at the same time you wouldn’t desire a bullet in the back of your head either. Although it hasn’t been sufficiently proved but a lot many people believe that Escobar sponsored the palace of justice siege by M19 guerillas in Bogota, Colombia. It is widely believed that the guerillas in exchange for financial support destroyed all evidence being held against Escobar and others inside the palace. Almost half the strength of the bench was killed in the attack.

The exact purpose of the hit is yet to be ascertained by the investigating agencies, but it seems as if it is one of those messages we spoke about earlier

For more person-specific examples we can turn to look at Giovanni Falcone, an Italian judge stationed in Palermo, Sicily. Falcone was a man known for his strict anti-mafia ideology. As a prosecution magistrate Giovanni Falcone was involved in prosecuting the Sicilian mafia. He was also part of the Maxi trial, which has been termed as one of the biggest trials against the mafia in history. This trial itself turned out to be the final nail in Falcone’s coffin. For his participation in the trial, Falcone was assassinated in Sicily on the orders of one of the crime bosses of the mafia, namely, Salvatore Riina.

Our country witnessed something similar over the weekend. The nation woke up on Sunday with the news of an attack on Justice Ijazul Ahsan’s residence in Lahore. Gunmen fired shots in two separate visits to the judge’s house late on Saturday night and early on Sunday morning. Needless to state that Justice Ijaz has for more than a year been part of high-profile cases including the Panama case and is also currently the monitoring judge of the references pending before the accountability court.

Safely put, he is a man who makes a lot others nervous. His being part of high-profile cases indeed makes him a target. But the question is, these high profile cases involve active politicians of the country. Would they themselves dare to order such a hit? That remains to be seen.

The exact purpose of the hit is yet to be ascertained by the investigating agencies, but it seems as if it is one of those messages we spoke about earlier. A message to the Supreme Court judge reminding him that he along with his family remains within reach. At the very outset, it is quite evident that the attackers only meant to get the message across and not actually harm the judge, for now.

Nevertheless, the shots fired give rise to certain more pertinent questions. A security lapse, to begin with. If the judges of the highest court of the land cannot sleep peacefully within the comforts of their homes, then how do we expect magistrates from the lower judiciary to do so? There is an immediate need to re-evaluate the security of judges throughout the country.

People may have adopted the tactics of drug lords and mafia mobsters but we as a state need to make it clear that this isn’t Colombia or Sicily, where members of one of the most important organs of the state can be bent at will. Even the judges themselves are of much thicker nerve than it is expected. These two shots, whatsoever the purpose, are not going to scare away the judges. On the contrary they will help the adjudicators in strengthening their resolve. This may itself give rise to another angle as to the purpose behind the attack.

Anyhow, it would be unprincipled to start pointing fingers for the attack without thorough investigation. However, as a student of law and more importantly as a citizen of this country, I would reiterate that we as a nation stand behind Justice Ijazul Ahsan and all those members of the judiciary working hard for a better future of our beloved nation.



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